The value of things
We would like to put forward a hypothesis: value is emotional, not factual.
So, the concept of value is that something adds to your life. That it provides you with some kind of positive feeling slash response, and that without it your life is lesser.
In modern society, as we become less connected to our emotions and desires and grow more attuned to socially accepted norms and what other people, similar to us, want… our ability to truly comprehend the value of something to us as individuals is a lost art. This is why money seems to be the most valuable thing in the world … dudes, it’s a piece of paper with a crappy printed picture on it.
This places the value on something; on owning, on having possessions - this can include how many holidays you’ve been on, how many trinkets you have possessed. If we define ourselves purely by value as finance, a very large pink elephant that cost $10,000 to make should be something everyone wants to put in their garden… but, this isn't the case. So, it’s about deciding personal preference for value…
Value represents different things to different people. It can be a memory, that something reminds you of something else. It enables you to do something you enjoy doing, like a bicycle allows you to visit places you like. It could be part of a journey towards something else that will make you feel valuable… a book, education, exercising. How is a bike valuable? You remember the first time you rode it. It might be valuable because you think riding is fun. It might be valuable if you want to manage your weight or your heart condition… Or, it might be valuable because you’re riding to your friend's house for your formal. It could be valuable because it cost you money, or because other people know how expensive it was. But, the bike itself is not inherently valuable unless these things (or any combination of these things) are important to you. Someone may intensely dislike bikes… so, does that make your bike any less valuable?
This is important for us to start to differentiate between value and worth… If we break down the word to it's closest synonyms, it's easy to see how value can take different forms for other people; Merit. Worth. Usefulness. Use. Utility. Desirability. Benefit. Gain. Efficacy. Significance.
These are pretty clearly quite different. There are so many things you can protect in your life - and you should protect valuable things. If you don’t understand the source of your value, you may focus your energy on protecting things that aren't actually valuable to you. If you’re more aware of what exactly holds value for you, then you’re more likely to protect those things.
This is the definition google provides for Value: The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
The key here seems to be the word 'held'; and is particularly interesting when we start to look at why we look externally to value things - not just objects, but ourselves. The only value that another person can create for you is whether or not you suspect their opinion matters more than your own. You have to decide someone else matters more than you to decide their opinion of value supersedes your own. If Roger Federer told me what tennis racket to buy, I’d buy it. But, if your friend says “I don’t think you should still sleep with a toy,” or “I think that’s a shitty holiday”… are they expert enough to decide their opinion is more legitimate than your own?
Value can be quite hidden. Human beings are inherently lazy, so we look for the most obvious value. In a capitalist system, money holds lots of immediate value. Aesthetic value is similar, in that it stimulates our senses quite obviously. Emotional value isn't necessarily the first thing you connect with… a house is something you buy that’s worth a lot of value, you know if it ticks the boxes in terms of looks, but anyone who’s bought a house knows that you just get a feeling. If you’re prioritising the other factors to be more important, then you may ignore that feeling, and ultimately short-change yourself.
The fourth layer is understanding why you have that feeling. The reason why that feeling occurs is actually what bestows that thing with value. So, back to the bike - you love riding the bike because you love riding it with your dad, but your dad is now dead. The bike reminds you of feeling good, feeling loved, because you feel happy and connected to those values which are now hard to find because your dad is gone. You’ve seen the impact of fitness in action as a direct result of the bike, so you continue.
The fact that you now know that feeling valued may equal feeling loved can help you to understand that maybe the bike in and of itself is not the secret, or the only thing that holds the key to making that value. If it really is about other people knowing it’s successful, you can look for other ways to transfer that, too. If you understand why you value things, then you understand yourself better.
The thing about value is that because it is an emotion, it’s only yours. There’s not a single object in this world that isn't somehow replaceable, but the value is only replaceable if you let it be. An object is only irreplaceable, because you say it is. If you want to assign so much emotion to a different object, you can choose to. Losing something isn’t bad in and of itself. Whether it’s deemed irreplaceable and how you deal with that loss is similar to how you’d deal with any other emotion…
If you’ve lost something valuable, there’s no way to deal with the loss of that specific thing… you're dealing with emotional loss instead. If you can be aware of that, it makes it easier to replace… but if you choose not to replace it, you know why… that endows that loss with something more noble, something empowering. It puts you back in control of what's valuable to you, and reminds you that value can be about choice.
If you know that, as well, you can’t judge someone else for what they choose to value.
The four possible values, as I see it, are:
Next time you laugh at someone and what they value, it really may just be an indication that you aren’t aware of what they care about.